Researchers have suspended their plan to capture as many as 12 wild minke whales in the Lofoten Islands area of northern Norway as part of an experiment — partially funded by the US government — to study how whale brains respond to ocean noise.
The study failed to test any whales, given that one minke escaped through a hole in the net, another was too large, and a third whale that entered the netted-off area was a humpback, according to Animal Welfare Institute spokeswoman Margie Fishman.
According to Aamodt, researchers informed him that the whale had been held within the larger section of the netted area for eight hours, but escaped before the animal could be transferred to a salmon cage in order to conduct the actual hearing test.
Aamodt wrote in an email to NOAH:
“The researcher further stated that they want to go down with a diver/ROV to inspect the net to find out how it got out.”
According to Susan Millward, director of the marine program for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI):
“We are very concerned about the welfare of the escaped whale. We are calling on Mattilsynet to ensure that the minke whale is alive and uninjured, and to immediately pause the study in order to inspect the research site to determine what happened.”
AWI is also asking Mattilsynet to indicate whether a vet with expertise in whale health and welfare is on-site.
As a result of the failure to capture any minke whales, the study has been suspended until next year, Fishman said.